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Winning With the Machines – Mark Olson, Director at Findlay Kia Las Vegas

“Am I Selling Cars?”

In the dealership world, it’s often difficult to know if your marketing is on the right track . Mark Olson, Director of E-Commerce and Business Development at Findlay Kia Las Vegas, judges every marketing decision based on one simple criterion: “Am I selling cars?”

Selling cars is the lifeblood of the automotive industry, and it’s definitely something Olson is in a position to give advice on. In fact, his work in bolstering sales at one of the nation’s largest auto groups recently earned him the honor of being one of Automotive News’ “40 Under 40.”

Though Mark’s philosophy of judging marketing efficiency based on vehicle sales sounds simple enough, drawing a clear line of campaign success is actually one of the biggest challenges dealers face when making digital marketing decisions.

So how does Mark do it so confidently?

Looking at Marketing Through a Different Lens

Olson was one of the first automotive marketers to recognize that the world of digital marketing is evolving to include the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), as well as the impact it would have on the car world, and especially his dealership.

Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing nearly everything in the world as we know it – all the way from planes in the sky to the phone in your pocket. The automotive industry is filled with opportunities for machines to improve efficiency, with many manufacturers investing heavily to produce functional autonomous cars by the year 2020.

But that’s tomorrow – and Mark Olson is focused on how the machines can help him sell more cars today.

Selling More Cars by Combining Dealer Intelligence with Machine Learning

Over the past few years, Olson has been extremely focused on optimizing his sales and marketing strategies by leveraging AI. A major part of his AI strategy relies on a company called LotLinx, which helps him utilize data on who is searching for specific vehicles in his (and his competitors’) markets.

With that data, he has the capability to launch smart ad campaigns that target potential customers that match with what’s in his inventory. AI then serves vehicle-specific advertisements at the perfect time, location, and channel – which convert them directly to an optimized vehicle details landing page (VDP) for less than $5 per shopper.

On average, Mark will invest between $2,500 – $3,000 a month in LotLinx AI campaigns, and those campaigns help move his inventory for less than $150 per sold VIN, while delivering almost half of all Used/CPO VDP traffic.

“Third party inventory listing sites are no longer the only places car buyers can find what they are looking for,” says Mark, “Now, with LotLinx, the vehicles shoppers are looking to purchase can actually find them.

Using Machines To Win

Mark supercharges his marketing strategies by combining the data processing power of LotLinx AI with his many years of car selling experience. That combination helps him build campaigns on his terms – taking into consideration the type of market each of his vehicles would do well in.

Take, for example, a vehicle with heated seats: Mark knows that a car buyer in Las Vegas might not be interested in this vehicle, but shoppers in Utah — a location that sees its fair share of low temperatures— would probably be willing to make a trip to Las Vegas for the right car.

LotLinx technology allows Olson to increase the radius of buyers he targets for his inventory, so he can bring in sales opportunities from far beyond his local market, and sell those cars in less than 40 days.

Mark not only uses LotLinx AI technology to steal buyers from competitive markets, but also from competitive brands.

“If I have an Escalade or Lexus, what are the odds of a competitive brand’s customer deciding on their own to come to a Kia dealership for that car? VIN-Specific advertising gives me the ability to find buyers for any vehicle on my lot, which helps me to run campaigns that I can prove move metal. That’s is a huge selling point for me when I need to justify my marketing budget to our GM.”

Olson tested the efficiency of these campaigns for the first time in 2016, when he had a Cadillac Escalade that had been on the lot for three weeks. “It looked as if no one in the Vegas market was biting,” he says, “so I created a vehicle-specific campaign that stretched all the way to Los Angeles, almost 300 miles away. It didn’t take long for a customer to make the trek up to Las Vegas to purchase the car.”

January 2018 Results:

Campaign Strategy: Used/CPO Kia and Off-Brand VINs

Total Spend: $2,976.54

VINs Targeted – 60

VINs Sold Within 30 days – 23

Sell rate – 38%

Cost Per Sold VIN: $130

Average Vehicle Turn Rate – 34 Days

The Positive Results of AI Go Beyond Sales Numbers

Though Artificial Intelligence software is advanced, Olson is more than satisfied with how easy the LotLinx campaign management platform is to use. “Even those without an internet background can figure it out.” This makes utilizing their reporting tools and gaining a clear understanding of performance another thing Olson never has to worry about.

Using Google Analytics, Mark is able to see that LotLinx contributes a major portion of all VDP traffic, while being on the lower-end of his monthly investments.

Used/CPO VDP View Contribution

LotLinx – 47%

Google/Organic – 24%

Direct – 12%

However, the most priceless thing to Olson (and most dealers out there) is saved time. Because AI campaigns run by automatically finding the best placement, bid, and channel to reach shoppers, Olson has the bandwidth to focus on other duties that need his attention – all the while getting  better results than if he were to build the campaign logic himself.

“I manage 200+ employees, the acquisition of new employees, and countless other things. With AI running my digital advertising campaigns, I can concentrate on training employees, making follow-ups, and helping the sales team make more money.”

Advice for Other Automotive Marketing Risk Takers

“Taking on a new direction, especially in auto sales, is not always an easy thing,” Olson acknowledges. But he does have two pieces of advice for his fellow auto industry marketers:

1) Always be adapting  

“Everything is changing with dealership marketing, but automotive still seems to be one of the slowest to ever accept those changes. Many people in my industry will avoid using something new or advanced just because they don’t understand it. Every innovation is going to be different than what we already know, otherwise it wouldn’t be helpful. That’s why I say, if you don’t know something, that’s okay. Do your best to figure it out.”

2) Pay it Forward

“Whenever I go to the National Automobile Dealers Association convention, people are always willing to talk and give advice to me for free. The most successful dealers out there understand the importance of helping others. So, I recommend that you always find time to talk to people.”

Talking to People About LotLinx Automotive AI

Olson took a calculated risk that paid off for himself and Findlay Auto Group by trusting the new approach to marketing that LotLinx AI was offering. His numbers prove that risk has paid off, month over month – even in January of Q1, which is typically one of the tougher months in the car sales business.

“Simply put,” says Mark, “their AI technology puts the right cars in front of the right people to increase sales. If a dealer is out there and not embracing the fact that AI is here to change the way we sell cars, they are going to kick themselves later on down the line.”

To learn more about LotLinx Automotive AI, visit www.lotlinx.com/CBT

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